Current Research Projects

The SHZM is cooperation partner within the framework of the following research projects:

Knowledge Analysis of Hearing Functionality, Prevention and Treatment of Ear Diseases among Professional Ear Users

The aim of this study in cooperation with the University Hospital of Zurich is to use a newly developed questionnaire to record and analyse the knowledge of Professional Ear Users (PEU) about how hearing works and about the prevention and treatment of ear diseases. The data obtained can provide the basis for information and prevention events, as well as for the development and expansion of specialised centres for otolaryngological for PEU.

Prevalence and Forms of Stage Fright in Organ Students

As part of this cross-sectional study, organ students are examined using validated standardized scales and self-developed questionnaires on the occurrence and form of stage fright, as well as on experiences and resources in dealing with possible associated symptoms. The study aims to record the prevalence and forms of stage fright in a population that has hardly been researched so far and to contribute to a better understanding of the phenomenon of stage fright. It is being carried out in cooperation with the SHZM and the music academies in Freiburg im Breisgau (D), Stuttgart (D) and Leipzig (D).

The Influence of an Instrument’s Dimensions, String Length-dependent Finger Spacing and Position on Muscle Activation and Perceived Effort in Viola Playing

This project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and is being carried out at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK).

Although the great variability of violas dimensions and string length-dependent finger spacings is a common fact, no scientifically founded knowledge exists on how these parameters factor into the still worrying incidence of medical complaints in violists in interdependency with the instrument’s position. Considering results for the violin based on our previous research, there remains a lack of scientifically-based knowledge regarding ergonomic aspects of the viola for all age groups and proficiency levels. Due to the instrument’s distinct differences from the violin, it is for the first time that research with this specific focus is carried out. This project aims to investigate how the instrument’s dimensions and string length-dependent finger spacing affect muscle activity and perceived effort in a player’s left hand and arm in conjunction with position effects on these parameters. Quantitative intra-individual comparisons will examine the individual limiting or beneficial factors of biomechanics and musculature (e.g. strength and endurance) in the upper left extremity, muscle activity and perceived effort when playing violas with different dimensions and string lengths in standardised positions with and without the bow. Results will allow for physiological guidelines and specific pedagogical recommendations as well as for ergonomic optimisation and prevention of playing-related health problems. It is hypothesised that this approach will make a more individualised, targeted choice of instrument and quicker ergonomic adjustments thereof possible. Moreover, viola players may receive better support when it comes to diagnosis and treatment, thereby expanding this line of research to other instrument groups.

Completed Research Projects

Music performance Anxiety from the Challenge and Threat Perspective: Psychophysiological and Performance Outcomes

This project is financially supported by the SNF and coordinated by the University of Lausanne (Département Santé au travail et environnement)

This project examines changes in stress, cognition, emotion and physiological parameters attributable to stage fright (stress hormone levels, cardio-vascular functions and respiration) with regards to how they relate to qualitative parameters relevant for solo performance quality. The project aims to make a further contribution to the prevention of performance anxiety and a constructive way of dealing with excessive levels of stage fright. We extend prior research in this domain in novel ways and investigate to what extent university music students varying in their level of trait MPA from low to high differ in their performance-related psychophysiological activity and their self- and expert-rated quality of performance.


Guyon A/Hildebrandt H/Güsewell A/Horsch A/Nater U/Gomez P (2023) “General Music Performance Anxiety and Audience Presence: Their Influence on the Music Students’ Neuroendocrine Response across Time during a Music Performance“. In: Documentation 20 Art in Motion Symposium München 2023: 54 (ISBN 978-3-00-074981-0) or

Guyon A/Hildebrandt H/Güsewell A/Horsch A/Nater U/Gomez P (2023) “Music performance anxiety and audience presence: their influence on the music students’ neuroendocrine response across time during a music performance“. In: International Journal of Psychophysiology, Volume 188, Supplement, June 2023, p. 117-118

Guyon A/Hildebrandt H/Güsewell A/Horsch A/Nater U/Gomez P (2022) “How audience and general music performance anxiety affect classical music students’ flow experience: a close look at its dimensions“. In: Frontiers in Psychology, Oct. 2022,

Sokoli E/Hildebrandt H/Gomez P (2022) “Classical music students’ pre-performance anxiety, catastrophizing, and bodily complaints vary by age, gender, and instrument and predict self-rated performance quality.“ In: Frontiers in Psychology, June 2022,

Guyon AJ/Studer RK/ Hildebrandt H/Horsch A/Nater U/Gomez P (2020) „Music performance anxiety from the challenge and threat perspective: psychophysiological and performance outcomes“. BMC Psychol 8, 87 (2020).

Neurofeedback within the Context of University-Level Formation

Within the framework of this project, music students train attentional states relevant for their professional activity by using portable neurofeedback-devices for several months. Study participants undergo EEG-measurement, as well as completing psychometric scales pre- and post-training. The aim of this study is to consciously generate different levels of concentration depending on external requirements and to do so independently of a training device.

Heiler P/Nemcova M/Oberroither-Sieler A/Buchmann J/Nübling M/Hildebrandt H (2023) “Use of Neurofeedback in Higher Music Education: A Pilot Study“. In: Documentation 20 Art in Motion Symposium München 2023: 55 (ISBN 978-3-00-074981-0) or

Objective Criteria for the Individual Selection of a Physiologically Advantageous Violin Position

This use-inspired research project aims to contribute a quantitative analysis of individual, advantageous or limiting biomechanical and muscular factors of the left upper extremity in connection with typical instrument positions used by violinists. Based on study results, physiological and pedagogical guidelines are developed in view of individualised, ergonomic optimisations, as well as the prevention of task-specific health problems. Within the framework of this cross-sectional study, the interdependency between instrument position, muscle activation, subjectively perceived effort, as well as biomechanically relevant aspects of the left upper extremity are examined. Based on study results, individual adaptations of the instrument position can be carried out more effectively, and the consultation of players of high stringed instruments is facilitated for prevention, therapy and teaching alike. This research project can be seen as a model for future studies on other instrument groups.


Margulies O/Nübling M/Verheul W/Hildebrandt W/Hildebrandt H (2023) “Determining factors for compensatory movements of the left arm and shoulder in violin playing”. In: Frontiers of Psychology. Volume 13 – 2022. Published 23.01.2023:

Hildebrandt H*/Margulies O*/Köhler B/Nemcova M/Nübling M/Verheul W/Hildebrandt W (2021) « Muscle Activation and Subjectively Perceived Effort in Typical Violin Positions ». In: Medical Problems of Performing Artists 36(3) (9/2021):207-217 – Published 23.01.2023:

Hildebrandt H Margulies O/Nemcova M (2019) „Biomechanische  Parameter und berufsspezifische Beschwerden der oberen Extremität – zwei Fallbeispiele“. In: promanu 30 (1/2019): 9-12

Hildebrandt H (2018) „Gelingen und Gesundheit im Instrumentalunterricht – Physiologische Aspekte von Bewegungslernen und Körperwissen“. In: Rüdiger W (Hg.) Instrumentalpädagogik – wie und wozu? (Üben & Musizieren) Schott, Mainz 2018: 187-206

Hildebrandt H (2017) “Aktives Musizieren bei Jugendlichen – Spezifische Aspekte des Schülers, des Studierenden, des angehenden Profis, des Solisten”. In: Schriftenreihe Band XXIV der Psychosomatischen Klinik Bad Neustadt (Ed.) Ressource Musik – Der Musiker im Mittelpunkt. Bad Neustadt 2017, S. 181-196

Hildebrandt H/Margulies O/Nemcova M (2017) “Violinspiel erleichtern. Ein Zürcher Forschungsprojekt liefert erste wissenschaftlich fundierte Ergebnisse zu individuell geeigneten Violinpositionen”. In: Schweizerische Musikzeitung 20 (11/2017): 54

Hildebrandt H/Margulies O/Köhler B/Nübling M/Verheul W/Nemcova M/Hildebrandt W (2016) “Objective Criteria for the Individual Selection of a Physiologically Advantageous Violin Position”. In: Musikphysiologie und Musikermedizin 23 (3/2016): 145-146

Hildebrandt H/Margulies O/Köhler B/Nübling M/Verheul W/Nemcova M (2016) “Objective Criteria for the Individual Selection of a Physiologically Advantageous Violin Position”. In: Documentation of the T4X – Symposium Munich 2016. (2016): 52

Hidden Arm and Hand Characteristics of Percussionists

Within the framework of this research project, key parameters in arms and hands of percussionists are investigated.

The goal of this project is the creation of an instrument-specific comparison group for percussionists – in analogy with comparison groups for piano, violin and cello. These comparison groups were built up over 50 years of work in our laboratory, which was founded by Christoph Wagner.

The comparison groups permit, to anonymously compare hand characteristics of an individual player with those of other professional musicians. By doing so, useful insight is gained into individually optimisation of posture, practicing techniques, physical endurance training, therapy options, etc..


Hildebrandt H/Margulies M (2018) “Creative Ergonomic Solutions for Musicians – Scientifically Based Examples from the Zurich Centre for Musicians Hands (ZZM)”. In: Documentation T4X2  Symposium München 2018: 50-51 (ISBN 978-3-00-059760-2)

Nemcova M/Margulies O/Hildebrandt H (2018) “Hidden Arm and Hand Characteristics of Percussionists”. In: Documentation T4X2  Symposium München 2018: 69 (ISBN 978-3-00-059760-2)

Toward a science of Music Performance: Interdisciplinary Research on Task-Specific Movement and Learning Parameters in Professional Musicians


Candia V/Kusserow M/Margulies O/Hildebrandt H (2023) “Repeated stage exposure reduces music performance anxiety”. In: Frontiers in Psychology. Volume 14 – 2023. Published 20.03.2023:

Kusserow M/Candia V/Amft O/Hildebrandt H/Folkers G/Tröster G (2012) “Monitoring Stage Fright Outside the Laboratory: An Example in a Professional Musician Using Wearable Sensors.” In: Med Probl Perform Art 27(1) (3/2012): 21–30. Link to the article: click here.

Kusserow M/Hildebrandt H/Candia V (2013) „Das Lampenfieber unter objektiver Beobachtung“. In: ESTA Nachrichten  (2012): 3-5

To view a television report of the Swiss National TV SRF, click here.

Prolonged Performance-related Psychophysiological Activation in High- and Low-anxious Music Students 

Project lead: Patrick Gomez, Carole Dessimoz

Collaboration: Brigitta Danuser, Horst Hildebrandt, Regina Studer


Guyon A/Cannavò R/Studer R/Hildebrandt H/Danuser B/Vlemincx E & Gomez P (2020) “Respiratory variability, sighing, anxiety, and breathing symptoms in low- and high-anxious music students before and after performing“. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 303.

Haccoun Y/Hildebrandt H/Klumb P/ Nater U/Gomez P (2020) „Positive and Negative Post Performance-Related Thoughts Predict Daily Cortisol Output in University Music Students“. In: Front. Psychol., 13 November 2020 |

Studer R/Nielsen C/Klumb P/Hildebrandt H/Nater U/Wild P/Heinzer R/Haba-RubioJ/Danuser B/ Gomez P (2019) „The mediating role of mood in the relationship among sleep, perseverative cognition and subjective health complaints in musicians.” In: Psychology & Health,

Gomez P/Nielsen C/Studer R/Hildebrandt H/Klumb P/Nater U/Wild P/Danuser B (2018) « Prolonged performance-related neuroendocrine activation and perseverative cognition in low- and high-anxious university music students. » In: Psychonoeuroendocrinology 95 (2018): 18-27. To view the article, click here.

Nielsen C/Studer R/Hildebrandt H /Nater U/Wild P/Danuser B/Gomez P (2017) “The relationship between music performance anxiety, subjective performance quality and post-event rumination among music students”. In: Psychology of Music  2017, 1-17. DOI: 10.1177/0305735617706539 and Printed version: Psychology of Music  46(1) (1/2018): 136-152

To view a television report of the Swiss National TV SRF, click here.

Cardiorespiratory Activity in High- and Low-Anxious Professional Music Students in Performance Situations

SNF-Cooperation project with the University of Lausanne, 2007-2011

The aim of this project was to examine musicians’ psycho-physical functions in stage settings. By means of psycho-metric scales, and real-time respiration-analysis (gas exchange, respiratory movements, etc.), music students were examined before, during and after an appearance on stage. 450 students of 6 music universities completed the psychometric questionnaires, 75 participated within the framework of the further study phases. In addition to cardio-respiratory base parameters, end-tidal CO2 was measured as an indication for possible hyperventilation. Data collected were compared with subjectively perceived emotions and subjectively perceived physiological activity.


Studer R / Danuser B / Hildebrandt H / Arial M / Gomez P (2009) “Music performance anxiety (mpa) : cardiorespiratory activity in high- and low-anxious professional music students before a performance situation.” In: Psychophysiology, 46 (2009): 43

Studer R / Danuser B / Hildebrandt H / Arial M / Gomez P (2011) “Hyperventilation complaints in music performance anxiety among classical music Students”. Journal of Psychosomatic Research Research 2011 Jun;70(6):557-64

Studer R / Gomez P / Hildebrandt H / Arial M / Danuser B (2011) « Stage fright: its experience as a problem and coping with it ». Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2011 Oct;84(7):761-71

Studer R / Danuser B / Wild P/ Hildebrandt H / Gomez P (2014) « Psychophysiological Activation During Preparation, Performance, and Recovery in High- and Low-Anxious Music Students ». In: Applied
Psychophysiology and Biofeedback 39(1) (3/2014): 45-57 (online published 30th of January 2014)

Link to the research report: click here.

Stress Factors and Solutions Strategies in Music Students

Cooperation project between the music universities of Basel, Lucerne and Zurich

Cross-sectional study carried out by means of standardised scales, focussing on both physical and psychological task-specific complaints, coping with work as a music student, patterns of behaviour and experience, as well as the attitude towards health and one’s own preventative activities.


Hildebrandt H / Candia V / Nübling M (2009) « Evaluation gesundheitlicher Belastungen und Arbeitseinstellungen bei Studienanfängern an Musikhochschulen ». In: Arbeitsmedizin & Sozialmedizin & Umweltmedizin 44 (3 / 2009): 135

Hildebrandt H / Candia V / Nübling M (2009) « Evaluation gesundheitlicher Belastungen und Arbeitseinstellungen bei Studienanfängern an Musikhochschulen ». In: Dokumentation zur 49. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Arbeitsmedizin und Umweltmedizin e. V. (DGAUM) 2009: 280 – 285

Hildebrandt H / Nübling M / Candia V (2012)” Increment of Fatigue, Depression, and Stage Fright During the First Year of High-Level Education in Music Students.” Med Probl Perform Art 2012; 27(1): 43–48

Link to the article: click here.

Clarinet Sound – Attempting a Physiological Analysis 

Further information can be found on the website of the Lucerne Music College here. (Information available in German only)

A report about this research project produced by Swiss Television SF DRS can be found here. (TV production in German)

The article’s abstract (German only) is available here, the print version of the article (German only) here.